Answering the clarion call: How the COVID-19 pandemic will influence sustainability

Managing sustainability data to manage non-financial risk is a complex task under normal circumstances. In our ongoing COVID-19 thought-leadership series, we spoke to Callum Rees, Strategic Account Manager at SustainIT to get his views on how big data will inform the long-term sustainability and resilience planning for organizations across the globe.

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The challenge of uncertainty

An ever changing regulatory landscape has long made sustainability management difficult. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have had to contend with even more rapidly shifting rules and regulations. In many cases, a failure to adhere to these means not reopening your business or allowing employees to return to work.

Many companies are trying to be as proactive as possible in a difficult and unprecedented time. “I think one of the biggest challenges our sustainability clients are facing is the high level of uncertainty. Each region has different regulations and requirements to manage the spread of the virus, and for global organizations with multiple sites, this becomes particularly challenging.

There is a day-to-day uncertainty from governments, from management in companies down to the employees where it is not clear what is going to happen next.” This uncertainty makes planning and responding quickly to challenges that arise difficult. While these challenges are exacerbated during the pandemic, it highlights a need for greater agility and resilience in organizations overall. This will ultimately determine their long-term sustainability.

The effect on sustainability

Sustainability is a long-term view. It is difficult to speculate what ripple effects current events will have on sustainability. However, Callum believes there is an opportunity to use this time to refocus energy on the need for sustainability. “Perhaps, sustainability professionals have a bit more time on their hands, which we are not used to,” he says. “This is a good time to galvanize and mobilize people before we slip back into how it was before,” he says, recognizing the opportunity in crisis situations to create positive change.

“I'm hoping that the difficulty is short term and that somewhere on the other side of this, we come out with a better understanding of our responsibility to our environment, but also to society in general,” he says. The two go hand in hand, according to Callum, and there is a pressing need to build resilience.

The role of technology

Big data is a relatively new concept, but Callum believes that the intelligent use of data and the clever application of technology is precisely what will aid our quest to build resilience in organizations, and help us to build economies and ways of life that are able to weather the storms we are almost guaranteed to face again in the future. “Data can play a crucial role in improving the potential second spikes of this pandemic,” says Callum.

“We can perhaps mitigate risks faster than we could have done in the past,” he says. This is because we now have access to data that was inconceivable in the past. By analysing these, we can track infections and predict hotspots in a way that was unheard of a century ago.

Callum believes there is a growing number of companies who are proactively using technology –, using “the large, expensive, complicated, intelligent platforms that they've already got” to give them a head start and a much better understanding of what's happening around them. This proactive use of data and technology means we do not have to develop a technology specifically to conquer this pandemic and the risks associated with it. Rather, we are able to use what we already have in innovative and adaptive ways to respond to the challenges ahead of us. We already have the tools to start with.


There is no way to ignore the demands of the crisis in our immediate future. Callum echoes the sentiment of many experts around the world that we would be foolish and short sighted if we did not use this as an opportunity to build resilience in our organizations to safeguard survival and achieve long lasting stationarity and prosperity in the future. The clarion call for businesses around the world has sounded, and it is up to us to heed the call.

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About Callum Rees

Callum is SustainIt’s software vendor partnership manager and also works closely with companies to help them find the right EHS solution. Callum has worked with many companies from a wide array of sectors and continents.

About SustainIT

Since 2006, SustainIt have helped organisations around the world, from SMEs to FTSE 500s, improve their non-financial data and reach their sustainability goals. SustainIt believe in empowering others to harness the power and possibility from their data and understand that managing data can sometimes be daunting.

SustainIt not only have great relationships and knowledge of the EHS software market but a technical team with over 15 years of experience working within various solutions on the market.


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